Ellen DeGeneres Drew on Real-Life Sadness for Role in ‘Finding Dory’

DeGeneres was candid up about upheaval in her career.

ByABC News
June 14, 2016, 9:31 AM

— -- The animated film “Finding Nemo” made an enormous splash when it was released 13 years ago, and its sequel, “Finding Dory,” is headed to theaters this weekend with comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres reprising her role as the voice of Dory.

DeGeneres spoke with ABC News’ Juju Chang about again bringing Dory to life. In the film, the blue tang with short-term memory loss is trying to find her family.

In an interview that aired today on “GMA,” DeGeneres said she hoped people were inspired by the film to “just keep swimming.”

“There’s always another way — that’s a new message in this movie. And that is the truth. There’s always another way,” she said. “Don’t ever just, you know, put up with something or just say, ‘Well, that’s the way it is.’ And then your disadvantage can actually be your strength. So if you have a disability, you should embrace what it is that — it empowers you in a different way.”

When Chang asked DeGeneres, the host of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” whether it was harder to act with just a microphone as opposed to using her entire body, DeGeneres said that it was.

Whereas an actor in a traditional role can use his or her eyes or body language to convey emotion, “with your voice, you know, you have to feel those emotions. You have to give that fish complete human emotions. And when you cry, you know, I cried. I had to cry. Because otherwise, the audience isn’t going to be in the theater crying when there’s such an emotional scene if they’re not involved and attached to that character,” she said.

As a comedian, she said, she was extremely sensitive and had “lots of sadness” in her to fuel a portrayal of sorrow.

To depict Dory feeling lost, DeGeneres said, she just drew on real-life experiences from the earlier part of her life.

“I didn’t realize I was lost until I started really doing some soul searching and, you know, reading the right books and going to therapy. And then I look back, and I go, ‘Oh, boy. I didn’t have anybody to help guide me.’ And I was lost. And I just found my way on my own,” she said.

Part of finding her way was coming out as a gay woman in the 1990s.

“When you’re gay and you’re successful in this business, your whole team says, ‘Don’t rock the boat. You know, you’re doing fine. You know, we know you’re gay, but, you know, just keep it down’ ... And I just thought, you know, what’s equally as important as my career is living my life without shame,” she said.

She added, “The fear is that you lose your career. And it turned out, I did for a while. And three years seemed like forever. It seemed like I was — I didn’t have any money left, I wasn’t getting any jobs, I didn’t have anything. And I thought, ‘I’ll never work again. So I’ll start doing stand-up.’

She returned to stand-up. Slowly, people were reminded that she was “a writer and a funny person,” she said.

DeGeneres and her wife, Portia De Rossi, lead busy lives, and they’ve spoken publicly about not wanting children.

Even though she loves them, DeGeneres said she’s never been “driven” to have kids.

“We’ve really given it serious consideration. But, you know, we’ve been together 11 years now. And it’s a good, wonderful relationship. And we both have careers. And we’re both busy,” she said.

Kate McKinnon, Idris Elba, Diane Keaton, Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Dominic West, Bill Hader, Eugene Levy and Kaitlin Olson also appear in “Finding Dory.” The Disney/Pixar film opens June 17.

Disney is the parent company of both Pixar and ABC News.